Creative Commons: Choice and Trust

There has been a discussion going on in HUMlab for a while now about what form of digital rights registration would suit us best. It seems that everyone agrees that a Creative Commons license of some sort would help us protect the information we offer online (as video streams, written texts, images and audio) but at the same time encourage its distribution and use/s. I have a strong interest in copyright law, intellectual property and artist’s rights. So over the last few weeks I have been looking around for possible models for a HUMlab Creative Commons license.

The MIT Open Courseware site is, in my opinion, a excellent example of online educational resource archiving. The design of the website is not visually stunning, rather very functional but the content is amazing. One can access whole courses and large amounts of course texts from the site, all for free (they do ask for donations). MIT choose an Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 commons deed for their courseware. This provides for non-commercial use, requiring attribution and the assigning the same form of license to any derivative works. One thing that has concerned me with assigning a license for the HUMlab materials is that we are ‘keepers’ so to speak of the words and work of those many guests who come to HUMlab and present seminars and so on. For this reason we need to be able to be reasonably certain that the materials we are making available remain in the public domain, as they do when they originate in a public university such as HUMlab is part of. I think the Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 2.5 license does this, and in some detail if one is to read the full text.

However, there are many things to think about in regards to the licensing of creative works and this is where the Creative Commons License Generator can be handy. The software program allows the prospective licensee to choose the balance between the four main principles behind a Creative Commons License; Share, Remix, Non-commercial and Share alike. Not all elements have to be in a license, perhaps remix would not be allowed. To not allow remixing is something that has been nagging away at me in regards to the HUMlab material, simply because many of the ‘authors’ of the works we carry are not permanent in the lab and are often internationally recognised in their field. Perhaps some of them do not want to find their words or image being remixed into a totally different context?

In 2006 the British Council published Unbounded Freedom: A Guide to Creative Commons Thinking for Cultural Organisations by Rosemary Bechler.  Looking at the traditions of copyright, Bechler makes a solid case for the effectiveness of Creative Commons in fostering knowledge dispersion and creativity. In the section 2 of Bechler’s short book it states:

“[..]there is one strand in cultural commons thinking that makes it easier for cultural organisations to embark on more mutual relationships of trust with huge new publics: it is accustomed to recognising the value of giving – giving respect, giving trust. As Onora O’Neill, 2002 Reith lecturer on ‘A Question of Trust’ said at a recent Counterpoint conference: ‘You can’t build trust. There are only three things you can do with trust: give it, earn it and fritter it away.” (P42)

I hope when we decide what sort of Creative Commons License will be attached to HUMlab material it will be a part of the earning and giving of trust to the many who benefit from such a public resource.